Don't discuss religion and politics

bookcoverlgThe Detroit Free Press had a rather bizarre article about the intersection of religious views and politics. It's not the clearest piece of reportage I've ever read, but apparently Rep. Joe Knollenberg, R-Mich., is upset by comments Bruce Fealk, an anti-war activist and host of cable-access show, made about the lawmaker's religious views:

In his comments, Fealk, 53, said Knollenberg should atone for his sins -- meaning his refusal to back Democratic-sponsored legislation to set timetables for removing the troops -- like a good Catholic.

Both Knollenberg's staff and the National Republican Congressional Committee slammed Fealk and MoveOn.org, a nationwide advocacy group to which Fealk belongs. In a statement today, the NRCC said, "MoveOn.org has once again made a name for themselves by attacking Joe Knollenberg's personal beliefs and turning the Iraq war into a political, partisan game. ... Religious smears have no place in political discourse."

The story also says that Knollenberg's chief of staff asked Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm not to appear on the cable show again and to tell Fealk that "injecting an elected official from Michigan's religion into a debate on a public policy issue crosses the line."

What line is that? No clue.

Why would it be bad to discuss religious views in this context? Have Americans historically avoided this kind of discourse? Is this related to the outcry over denying communion to Roman Catholic politicians who support abortion?

The whole story kind of confused me and could have been helped by some political, ethical and/or religious analysts who could explain where the two sides are coming from. But it is an interesting entry into the ongoing story about religion and politics.

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